Grandparent Visitation Rights In Mississippi

Posted by Leslie ShumakeJan 14, 20220 Comments

The two most common questions our office gets from grandparents are :

1.  "What Kind Of Visitation Can I Get With My Grandchildren?"

2.  "How Hard Would It Be To Get Custody Of My Grandchildren?"

I will take on question one (1) in this blog, and the second question in a blog to come.

As for the visitation question, there is no established "common law" right to visitation. "Common Law" is simply a body of law that has been established by court decisions rather than by laws passed by the legislature of a particular state.  So, since there is no common law right to grandparent visitation, you look at the laws passed to find out if there are any dealing with the subject. If the non-custodial parent is "present" in the child's life and takes his or her own court ordered visitation, the grandparents are out of luck.  But, if the one of the parents is not present as defined by the law, there is relief for the grandparents of that absent parent.  

The Mississippi law is found in Section 93-16-3(2) which states the circumstances in which grandparents get visitation.   It says, essentially, that the Court "may" grant grandparent visitation if:  (1) The Grandparent can establish that he or she has a "viable relationship" with the child and the parent or custodial person has unreasonably denied the visitation and (2) It would be in the best interest of the minor child to allow visitation.      

"Viable Relationship" according to the Mississippi Statute (Law), means a grandparent has voluntarily and in good faith financially supported the minor child, at least in part, for a period of six (6) months or the grandparent has had visitation, including occasional overnight visitation, for at least a year.  

Naturally, with these broad guidelines, each case result is different, based on the evidence presented to the trial court.  There are a number of these cases reported in the Southern Reporter, but one case in particular was from Desoto County and argued by two friends of mine.  One attorney represented the grandparents and one represented the parents.  In the case of Martin vs. Coop, 693 So. 2d. 912 (Miss. 1997), the Mississippi Supreme Court set out ten (10) factors to be considered by the trial court when determining whether a grandparent should get visitation.  In that case the grandparents of the father of the children (who was deceased), were awarded "every other weekend", "alternating holidays" , "four weeks each summer", etc.  In other words, the same visitation the father would have had, had he not died. 

The factors are:

     1.  The amount of "Disruption" extensive visitation would have on the child's life.

     2.  The suitability of the grandparents' home with respect to the amount of supervision the child gets.

     3.  The age of the child.

     4.  The age, and physical and mental health of the grandparents.

     5.  The emotional ties between the grandparents and the grandchild.

     6.  The moral fitness of the grandparents.

     7.  The distance of the grandparents' home from the child's home.

     8.  Any undermining of the parent's general discipline of the child.

     9.   Employment of the grandparents and the responsibilities of that employment.

    10.  The willingness of the grandparents to accept that they are not the parents of the child, and to not interfere with the rearing of the child.

The Supreme Court in this case stated that the trial court was wrong in awarding the visitation it did, deeming it "excessive", sending it back to the Trial Court to adjust the visitation schedule.  Again, not the visitation itself, just the amount of the visitation.

Hopefully, this will give you grandparents food for thought for seeking visitation when your adult child is an "absent" parent, for whatever reason.

Please contact our offices if you have further questions and would like to set up an initial consultation on this issue.